International Business & Economy How can politicians run taxi association to advise cabbies?

How can politicians run taxi association to advise cabbies?

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

It was reported in ST on Sunday (http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/fare-cuts-by-uber-grab-will-hurt-sector-taxi-body) that the so-called National Taxi Association (NTA) is criticising about the recent price cuts by Grab and Uber, saying they not only hit their drivers’ earnings but, if left unchecked, could also hurt the taxi industry and commuters.
“It’s an unhealthy and unsustainable business strategy,” said NTA executive adviser Ang Hin Kee, who is also a MP in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
On April 14, Uber cut fares by an average of 15 per cent followed later by Grab, which slashed its prices by up to 14 per cent.
Mr Ang said cab companies are now under pressure to lower their fares but stated that “we don’t want to go down this road”. Mr Ang, only an adviser of NTA, has become its spokesperson.
NTA run by politicians
According to its website (http://www.nta.org.sg/about-us/who-we-are.html), NTA is said to be affiliated to NTUC. “We welcome all taxi drivers in Singapore to join us,” its website stated.
The association appears to be run by a “council of advisors”, made up of PAP politicians:
1. Chan Chun Sing – Chairman (Tanjong Pagar GRC MP)
2. Ang Hin Kee – Executive (Ang Mo Kio GRC MP)
3. Ong Ye Kung (Sembawang GRC MP)
4. Edwin Tong (Marine Parade GRC MP)
5. Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC MP)
6. Seng Han Thong (former Ang Mo Kio GRC MP)
Except for Seng Han Thong, all the rest are current PAP MPs. Mr Seng, by the way, was attacked by a 74-year-old disgruntled ex-taxi driver some years ago. He felt that Mr Seng was not taking any action to help him regain his lost taxi licence. The old man, who was formerly with ComfortDelGro, punched Mr Seng leaving him with a bruised lip during a meet-the-people session.
Given that the council of advisors are politicians who haven’t even driven a taxi before, are they in a position to “advise” our Singaporean cabbies? It’s ironical, if not comical, to hear that an adviser to a taxi association was himself punched by a former taxi driver over taxi matters.
Cabby to MP Ang: You don’t speak for us
James Lim, who lost his job in his late fifties and couldn’t find a suitable one, became a taxi driver. He writes well and regularly blogs about his life as a cabby.
When ST put up a news report last year (‘Cabbies cry foul over rival drivers’, 30 May 2015), quoting NTA adviser Ang accusing transport app providers and rental car companies of “creaming off profits”, Mr Lim immediately wrote on his blog to refute MP Ang (http://cabby65.blogspot.sg/2015/05/thank-you-uber-grabtaxi-hailo-and.html).
He wrote, “In the first place, the news article reported mainly the opinions of a single person, Mr. Ang Hin Kee, who is NOT a cabby but an adviser of the National Taxi Association (NTA) and a Ang Mo Kio GRC, Member of Parliament. Undoubtedly, his views cannot be depictive of Singaporean cabbies in general.”
“To me, he seems more like a spokesman of COMFORT which has an interest than of Singaporean cabbies,” Mr Lim added.
“I think Mr. Ang is essentially saying that COMFORT is the only taxi operator whose profits from taxi booking is now being ‘creamed off’ by these companies because others taxi operators like Premier, Transcab, SMRT or Prime are not affected as they inherently have very few taxi booking jobs to begin with. Consequently, my heading for the news article would instead be ‘COMFORT cry foul over transport providers app’,” opined Mr Lim.
Mr Lim said that these 3rd party taxi booking apps has turned out to be the “best things that ever happened to Singaporean cabbies”. Opportunities and options to earn more are open to all taxi drivers. He noted that many COMFORT cabbies are using the 3rd party apps to do more booking jobs to earn more.
Mr Lim is also of the view that cabbies who have their own car can dump cab firms like COMFORT so as to use their own car instead.
He explained, “This is a disaster scenario for taxi owners like COMFORT. It is an expensive operation to constantly keep a large fleet of taxis on the streets of Singapore. COMFORT’s main source of revenue is what they receive from the rental fees of drivers, so if too many cabs stand empty for too long, COMFORT will not only had their profits ‘creamed off’ but will face bankruptcy.”
“Now, for the first time ever, taxi operators will have to give serious consideration to how their actions affect the lives of their drivers. If they are wise, they should think of how to improve the working conditions of their drivers – like reducing the 250 km minimum mileage, high rental, indiscriminate sacking, repair costs and so on,” he added.
Lastly, Mr Lim felt good that the mighty COMFORT for once has been brought to its knees.
Mr Lim asked in jest, “Hey, COMFORT, do you want your drivers to desert you? The days of your authoritarian, arrogant, uncaring and high-handed attitudes towards your drivers need to change. Remember, they are your partners not employees!”
Indeed, with technology and the Internet these days, even authoritarian regimes like those in the middle-east can be brought down to their knees.

Meanwhile, it’s not known NTA, “advised” by 6 PAP politicians would be brought to its knees by these 3rd party transport app providers.

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